Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Raising Warning Flags: This Time, the Hawks Are French

As Russia thanks the Obama administration for its reset button and for its abandoning Central Europe's missile shield by… refusing to go along with sanctions against Iran, John Vinocur jumps in with an article entitled This Time, the Hawks Are French.
When a country gets certified as a Multilateral Good Guy as the United States did last week, thanks to the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee, one of the obligations that comes with the designation is listening seriously to warnings from less powerful partners.

Against the background of America’s recent past, these circumstances would ordinarily mean the United States hearing about its insufficient nuance, inadequate patience, and fatal reliance on force. Hand on throat, or finger to trigger — that’s not the way to do it, the classic admonition went.

Prepped and practiced, the Yanks could comfortably answer these days (even to applause), we’ve understood.

But there’s something that’s not clear: how this America reacts now when it’s told it’s behaving weakly, indecisively, or perhaps deceptively in inadequately trying to stop Iran’s rush toward a nuclear weapon.

… Their warnings can be blunt: that the United Sates is playing a flabby, losing game against Iran … Could Mr. Obama be well served by explaining more clearly why people should have faith in him on these issues which, at least at the leadership level of this country, are dead serious matters of concern?
John Rosenthal adds:
Back in the day, the mainstream news media used to revel in the political misfortunes of the European leaders that had supported George W. Bush and “his” Iraq war. The depiction of their downfalls constituted a veritable morality play. Think José María Aznar, Silvio Berlusconi, and Tony Blair.

… Never mind the facts. The grand narrative of the European masses rising up against the “deeply unpopular” Iraq war dictated that the (supposed) difficulties of the Bush allies had to be the story.

If Aznar, Berlusconi, and Blair were the villains in this narrative — traitors to the law-abiding, peace-loving European cause — the heroes also came in three: German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the dynamic French duo of President Jacques Chirac and Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin. Oddly enough, however, when these leading lights of the Franco-German “axis of peace” themselves went down to defeat or bowed out without a fight as their electoral prospects dimmed, this was not a story.

… one comes to a startling realization. Some six and a half years after the start of the Iraq war, continental Europe’s three largest and most powerful countries are all led by politicians who more or less openly supported the war and/or severely criticized the Franco-German efforts to prevent it.

By a bizarre historical irony, however, the politics of the “axis of peace” continue to lead a sort of shadow existence in Washington — in the person of Barack Obama. … notwithstanding the Nobel committee’s condescending pat on the back for their disciple, Obama’s European role models are all gone. He is on his own now and should his pursuit of “peaceful dialogue” give rise to a nuclear Iran and threats of greater and more terrible wars, this will be his responsibility.

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